Parties Agree On Election Road Map

The breakthrough on the road map to pave the way for free and fair elections is a step forward in a bid to resolve the country’s protracted political stalemate. However, threats to the negotiations still linger as the parties haggle over some critical issues, among them recruitment of staff for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the role of state security forces in politics and elections, the structure and regulation of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), political violence and poll monitors.

A document, titled Road Map to Zimbabwe’s Elections, exclusively seen by the Sunday Times, reveals that negotiators from Zanu-PF, MDC-T and MDC-N have largely agreed to a framework for free and fair elections, the timing of which is still a hotly contested issue. On Thursday, the negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of Zanu-PF, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T and Moses Mzila Ndlovu and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of MDC-N, agreed on the road map and signed a document to be forwarded to Zuma after the Easter holidays. On April 8, the negotiators completed the review of the Global Political Agreement and the Government of National Unity before sending a report to Zuma.

Zuma’s facilitation team of Charles Nqakula, Mac Maharaj and Lindiwe Zulu is expected to meet the Zimbabwean negotiators in Cape Town on May 6 and 7 to evaluate progress and resolve outstanding issues. The Zimbabweans agreed on the issue of sanctions, constitution-making process, media reforms, electoral reforms, restoration of the rule of law, freedom of association and of assembly and the actual election process. They also agreed that these issues must be addressed and implemented to create conditions for genuine and credible elections.
However, the negotiators were deadlocked on the staffing of the ZEC, the role of the army, police and intelligence in electoral politics and elections, deployment of security forces countrywide ahead of elections, political violence and how the CIO should be controlled and regulated.
They also disagreed on further amendments to the draconian Public Order and Security Act – widely used to ban rallies and meetings of Mugabe’s rivals and critics – and on the role of Southern African Development Community (SADC) monitors in the elections.

On Friday Chinamasa said Zanu-PF was not aware of state-sponsored political violence and deployment of the security forces to campaign for Mugabe and the party. He claimed that only retired soldiers were working for Zanu-PF. In 2002, a senior army commander, Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, was deployed to campaign for Mugabe amid claims he had resigned. Nyikayaramba is still in the army. A top Air Force of Zimbabwe commander, Air Vice-Marshal Henry Muchena, recently “retired” to spearhead the Zanu-PF election campaign.

Muchena is working with former CIO director-internal Sydney Nyanhongo and other security agents. It has also been established that battalions of serving troops are illegally campaigning for Mugabe and Zanu-PF. The negotiators met five times this month after the SADC’s watershed summit on politics, defence and security in Livingstone, Zambia, on March 31.

The summit’s hard-hitting resolutions shocked Mugabe and Zanu-PF officials. Mugabe and his die-hard supporters reacted angrily to the summit communiqué and lashed out at Zuma, resulting in a diplomatic row in the region. Although Mugabe and his loyalists have apologised for the attack on regional leaders, particularly Zuma, and embarked on a region-wide damage-limitation exercise to avoid diplomatic isolation and a political squeeze, the issue may yet explode at the forthcoming SADC extraordinary summit on May 20 in Windhoek, Namibia.

Mugabe is likely to face a hostile reception and to come up against the increasingly impatient SADC leaders, now determined to confront him over his failure to fully implement the GPA and the smooth running of the GNU.